The world may well have reached a tipping point in the fight against the Covid-19. Two back-to-back developments on the vaccine front provide new hope to finally end the pandemic. American biotech giant Moderna has announced that its vaccine was found to be 94.5% effective in the late-stage trials. This comes a week after another pharma major Pfizer reporting 90% efficacy for its vaccine. These developments hold promise to end the uncertainty surrounding the vaccine and offer a tentative timeline on when it could be available on a mass scale. There is a strong possibility that these vaccine candidates will get emergency use authorisation, which means they might be available in the market by the year-end, at least in the United States. The positive results of these two experimental vaccines, developed using the new technology ‘m RNA’ (messenger RNA), represent a powerful tool to fight the pandemic that has already infected over 54 million people worldwide and killed 1.3 million people. At present, of the over 150 Covid vaccine candidates that are in various stages of development, only 44 have reached clinical trials and 11 are undergoing late-stage testing. The developments in India have also been quite encouraging with Serum Institute of India (SII), conducting trials of the Oxford University vaccine, set to produce 100 million doses by December. It might get emergency use authorisation by the end of next month if late-stage trial data proves the efficacy of the vaccine candidate. Russia’s Sputnik-V is also undergoing trials in India.
It is a testimony to the human ingenuity that the global scientific community has responded to the pandemic challenge with an unprecedented speed and dedication, virtually racing against time. The challenge before the nations now is to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine across the world. Already, the rich countries account for at least 50% of the 5.3 billion doses for which deals had been struck. There are fears that such advance agreements will make the vaccines unaffordable and inaccessible for poor countries which may be forced to wait for vaccine supplies for months or even years. Though the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned nations against hoarding vaccines, the calls for equitable and ethical distribution of the vaccine may fall on deaf ears in the midst of changing geopolitical dynamics in the global pharmaceutical sector. The announcements by Pfizer and Moderna are likely to lead to frenzied deal-striking. At a time when the pandemic is playing havoc with the lives of people, vaccines are the best investment a country can make. Being a major vaccine supplier to the world, India has the potential to play a key role in overcoming vaccine nationalism.
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